Three Inches To The Left ….

Posted: September 21, 2010 in Motivation
Tags: , , ,

I’d like you to do me a favor as I am truly struggling to understand something.

Please sit back in your chair and extend your arms out in front of you.

Bent slightly at the elbow, hands outstretched toward the edges of your computer screen.

Place your left hand at 9 o’clock and your right hand out at the 3 o’clock position in front of you.

Now, “turn” both of your hands counter-clockwise to the left about 3 inches, so your hands are now at 8 o’clock and 2 o’clock.

O.K., now turn them back to 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock.

On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most difficult, how hard was that?

A one?  Two at the most?

So tell me why it is that at 6:00 a.m., with no other cars on the road in either direction for miles, would a driver on a four lane divided highway refuse to switch from the right lane to the left for only 5 seconds to give runners enough room to feel safe?

I mean, can’t we all just get along people?

Here in Austin they recently passed a law that motorists need to yield to cyclists on the road and allow them a full 3 foot berth when passing.  Seems reasonable, as those cyclists pay local taxes and federal taxes for the roadways just like the drivers of those automobiles.

But what about us runners?  Before we all leap to the, “why can’t you just run on the sidewalk” argument, which I understand appears to be a valid point of view from non-runners.  Let me just say that we are entitled to our spot on the road as well.

The reason that runners prefer the shoulder of the road, running against traffic is three-fold.

  1. Sidewalks are essentially 100% cement.  It is terrible for your knees, ankles, hips, back, tendons and cartridge if you are a high-mileage runner.  It frankly is terrible for you if you are a low-mileage runner.  It just isn’t realistic for us to run on cement and risk injury.
  2. Each intersection will require a small jump, leap, stride adjustment or change in our running economy as we go from block to block to block.  I counted more than 75 of these on my 12-mile run Sunday morning.  Again, not realistic.
  3. Lastly, runners “want” to be seen.  Running against the traffic allows runners to not only see the approaching cars, but to see ourselves, “be seen”.  Running on the sidewalk puts us directly in the line of fire with cars rolling through intersections, only looking to the left as they pull out on the road.  Dangerous stuff.

I think all of us would prefer to run on trails and parks if given the choice.  I know I would.  But we also have jobs, lives and other commitments that make it difficult to add a commute by car to said running trail or park if we are fortunate to have that option at all.

For some of us, that trail may be underwater or in a state of disrepair, which is the case right now for us who love to run on the Brushy Creek Trail in Austin.

Even on my “trail days”, I still log close to 2-3 miles on streets to get to and from the trail system.

This brings me back to my original point.

Can’t we all just get along?

Does it not take more energy to flash your high beams at me than to rotate your hands 3 inches to the left?

Does it not take more energy to honk your horn loudly as you speed past?

How about the driver who actually stops, turns around, comes back the other direction, stops again, turns back around for the second time to pull up next to me, proceed to put down their window and then yell something at me?

Again, 3 inches to the left.  Really?  Really.

I’m not a “Ranter” or an “Advocate”.  I’m not out to change the world, I just needed to get this off my chest.  We’re all in this together people.

Life is a garden.  Dig it.

So the next time you see a distance runner out there, battling the elements, fatigue, hills and their own will to keep going – show them some love – turn those hands on the wheel to the left those three inches and give them a little room out there.

If you do that I bet you’ll even get a wave from the runner as they go by, a smile and a thank you.  I know every car that passed me with that level of consideration on Sunday morning did.

As for the driver in the white Ford Aerostar who decided that the right lane was just too precious a commodity to give up Sunday at 6:22 a.m. on Avery Ranch Road – I’m really sorry that you haven’t “gotten it” yet.  Perhaps things will turn around for you soon, and priorities in life will become more clear to you in the coming years. 

But today, I feel sorry for you.  You missed one hell of a sunrise on Sunday, as you were too busy honking at that annoying runner who was taking up “your” lane to notice.

Next time maybe you’ll give up those 3 inches.  Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.

  1. Great post. I am with you 100% on this one, having been run off the road by a car (while cycling), and having had to ditch into the bushes while running. I think it is important that we are cognizant of our surroundings – no matter how we are using the road. Thanks for posting.

  2. Shenese says:

    Go Joe!!!! I totally agree with you! We have this same issue in Pittsburgh with bikers…people can be so rude! Share the road, folks! You’ll be surprised how great it feels to get that wave or head-nod of thanks!!

  3. Jodi Higgins says:

    Great post and awesome sunrise. I had this experience this morning on my tempo run. I was running in my development on the shoulder and there were no other cars to be found but I still had to throw my hands up in front of the driver. I have no idea how I wasn’t seen as I wear WHITE and a RUNNING LIGHT!! Seriously! All the other drivers did just fine this morning! I can understand how they wouldn’t have seen the other runner I saw out there this morning wearing all black and no lights!! I love your garden analogy!

  4. Sean Brown says:

    Amen, brother. I had the same thoughts this morning, circa 6:00AM. No one else on the road in any direction. Had I wanted to, I could have reached out and touched the side mirror of the red Ford pickup that decided to actually swerve a bit toward me just to make sure I was awake. I don’t get it at all.

  5. Bonnie says:

    I was on my long run Saturday an had to jump off the road onto the grass to avoid getting hit by car that came right at (literally turning into me a bit). Never mind that I was practically on the grass already. So frustrating! I don’t know why it’s so hard for drivers to give just a little bit of room so that runners and bikers are safe.

  6. AMEN! Given where we live, I do run on sidewalks. I try not to do many of my runs there, but I’m frankly more scared of the drivers than of injury. They are crazy and angry. It’s LA afterall.

    I want to add a request to drivers – when approaching a stop sign or traffic light, please stop PRIOR to the crosswalk, look to see if there are any pedestrian (not only runners, but dog walkers, parents with strollers, and people just trying to get from point A to B without a car) before pulling into the crosswalk to see if you can turn or drive through. I know those few seconds are a terrible inconvenience, but pedestrians do have the right of way and being charged with injuring (or worse) a pedestrian in a crosswalk, would be far more inconvenient.

  7. Robert Ranzer says:

    Joe. There’s always at least one in the crowd.

  8. Lara says:

    Keep sayin’ the truth, Joe, it’s all good. I’ve changed my route because of not feeling safe on the road before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again. Unfortunately, some people just don’t have anything better to do than get mad at people who aren’t them. Keep workin’ that garden Joe, you totally dig. 🙂

  9. onelittlejill says:

    There are people who are sick enough to purposely get close to you to scare you- I have changed my routes because of this problem more than one time. A friend of mine was hit, three days before his Ironman race (he still raced) and another teammate of mine was a victim of a hit and run. He spent months in the ICU in a coma and still has no memory of the man who hit him. He was later found, thanks to witnesses who saw a man at a gas station car wash trying to fix the damage to the front of his car. In a town close by a guy was hit in the shoulder of the road…thrown into the middle of the road and hit by another car that killed him. It made county headlines but nothing changed. Who doesn’t have a story or two or five when you have been a rider or runner for any period of time.

    I guess what I am saying is, I agree with you. But many don’t and sadly this post won’t reach those people. Perhaps it wont be until they hurt someone…which as we know, is too late.

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